The Australian Financial Review published a brief profile of the 53-year-old CEO of the ANZ Banking Group, Mike Smith, on 22 April 2010 (page 23, not available online). The article ostensibly reported on an ambush and shooting that Smith experienced in South America in 2007 but it also revealed some of his attitudes to leadership and OHS.
Mike Smith stated that as a CEO of a large organisation
“…you really can’t have work-life balance”.
This is not to say that his staff cannot have such a benefit but it sends a message to all those would-be CEOs that personal safety, health and one’s family will be sacrificed if you reach the top. The implication is that work-life balance needs to be sacrificed on the way to the top although Smith may be describing his own pathway.
Smith says in a positive tone that a CEO requires lots of energy and a passion for the job. When asked where his energy came from, he “quipped”:
“I don’t know, Johnny Walker probably”.
This attempt at humour falls flat when one notes that executive addiction is an issue in some industries and a book of interviews on the issue was released earlier in 2010.
The article was clearly planned to be based on a chatty interview that personalises a prominent Australian businessman but OHS professionals (perhaps “sticks-in-the mud”, like myself) do read the Australian Financial Review (although its readership is declining fast) to obtain insight into the corporate and financial world. The circumstances of Mike Smith being shot in the leg in South America are fascinating but his admissions above are more telling as it is rare for a CEO to question the relevance of work-life balance or to reveal that he turns to alcohol for assistance.
Leadership does not mean a sanitation of one’s life, experience or views but occasionally one gets a glimpse of a CEO behind the controlled presentation. The two issues mentioned above are just such a glimpse and provide a slightly different view on a couple of OHS matters than CEOs usually give.